There’s something magical happening here in Berlin. Every year the Global Innovation Gathering brings people from all across the world who create empowering community spaces together, and this year we have our friends from Basra, Palestine, and Egypt as a part of our crew.
The Global Entrepreneurship and Maker Space Initiative [GEMSI], has been supporting the development of collaborative community spaces across MENA and I took the opportunity to be with our crew in person to discuss some of our history and some of our dreams for the future.
Our first interview was with Nawres from Basra, Iraq
Nawres, welcome to Berlin! Let’s start with what brought us here, what’s the story?
Well, I was born a maker but I didn’t find my community until after the big changes in my country in 2003. The internet used to be restricted and watched by the government and then after the war the internet was opened and I started looking up projects on how to make online. That was how I found, makezine, instructables, sparkfun, and more.
What were you building?
Well, I was interested in bringing the arts to life. I feel like I was born as an artist, but art is not very respected in my country. The next step of beauty is to make art heavy, not just 2d, but living. I want to bring that kind of art to my country.
I made a youtube channel to share my projects online and that’s how Ali Ismail found me and invited me to a workshop with Fikra Space, the hackerspace in Baghdad. When I saw Fikra Space I saw they were a good community, and I thought that I can build a good community too in Basra. I felt lucky, because I have land, I have some caravans, and every maker has a workshop, so why not share my workshop? So I didn’t join Fikra Space, but we started Science Camp after that.
Oh yeah, I forgot! Wow, sharing is a really big part of your life!
Yeah, and it was after that I started to join the GEMSI calls and met Max and Geraldine from GIG on the google hangouts we had. And things grew after that. Last year we couldn’t join GIG because of a bombing at the American embassy in Irbil, Iraq. But we came to the Chaos Communication Congress with GIG, and then we met with Tim Receveur who came to Basra to collaborate with us on the Peace Tech Labs. Following that we made it to the Maker Faire with Tim in NYC.
Things have just keep growing, and we’re now a part of the Coworking Calls from Hivos which brought us some funding. Also, we recently raised 225% our goal on our crowdfunding program. We’re hoping to build a better workshop to bring in more services and a consultancy. This is our dream to make Science Camp financially sustainable.
What do you think about the future?
In five years we want to build a community that knows about entrepreneurship and doesn’t think the government is like God and is building their own products and services. My country is sick right now, the oil prices run our economy and is not related to productive work and we’re not talking about an educated and working community. This type of community is not good, they take more than they receive and this is not a part of Iraqi’s culture.
Historically Iraq produced things, and gave to humanity. Inventions like, writing, the wheel, buildings, we are not an extractive type of people. We are human and want to be giving to humanity.
Wow! So I see a thread of sharing and giving and I thought it was unique to your story, but you’re saying it’s a human thing and an Iraqi thing?
Yes, even a religious view. A religious saying we have is: العلم يسق بالإنفاق
Which means that science thrives when it’s shared.
I experienced this while teaching 3D Studio Max. Through teaching I receive more and get more ideas. It’s like a fire, when I give you some fire, my fire isn’t depleted. Science is like fire, it’s a type of energy.
“It’s like a fire, when I give you some fire, my fire isn’t depleted.”
Then in the future, the most important thing for Science Camp to do is to share the terms of entrepreneurship, makers, crowd-funding, improving human lives, green energy, innovation, and similar themes with the Iraqi people.
That’s amazing, what’s inspiring you to do all this work?
Well, two things. First, I am a maker and I need help and I give help.
The second thing is philosophical for me. I see so many people running after dollars, but I think to myself what does money do? I see the reality is that we just buy feelings. If you like cars, you get a feeling of happiness when you buy a car. Everything is about feelings, not money. So I think how can I be happy directly? I then try another approach rather than money, share something and receive gratitude and you get the good feelings for free.
Amazing, I wish you the best. Sharing we can satisfy our needs without money and build some beautiful things. I can’t wait to visit to Basra and see you guys in the next years.
More than welcome to visit, thanks!